Referees across the Continent: just how different is the PGMO from everyone else?

By Andrew Crawshaw

I thought it was time I had a look at refereeing in the other major leagues in Europe to try and determine categorically what the differences are between the way the PGMO operate compared with elsewhere.

Germany – Bundesliga

Number of teams 18

Number of referees – 23. 22 men and one woman (new this season)

Number of matches by each referee – max 14 (Tobias Stieler), min 5 (Martin Peterson and Sven Jablonski). Typical number between 8 and 12

Oldest Referee – Marcus Schmidt 44, Youngest – Sven Jablonski 27. Average age 36.9.  Retirement age 48

Average age when appointed 31.1 years

Age Date first match Age first match Matches this year
Tobias Stieler 36 17/2/2012 30 14
Manuel Gräfe 43 14/9/2004 30 13
Daniel Siebert 41 01/09/2004 28 13
Dr Felix Bruch 42 28/8/2004 29 12
Denis Aytekin 39 27/9/2008 30 12
Sascha Stegemann 32 31/8/2014 29 12
Christian Dingert 37 12/9/2010 30 11
Felix Zwayer 36 15/8/2009 28 11
Robert Hartmann 38 19/2/2011 31 11
Benjamin Brand 28 22/8/2015 26 11
Markus Schmidt 44 16/8/2003 29 10
Guido Winkman 43 16/8/2008 34 10
Bastian Dankert 39 22/9/2012 32 10
Harm Osmers 33 10/9/2016 31 10
Dr Robert Kampa 36 17/9/2016 34 9
Benjamin Cortus 35 25/9/2016 34 9
Patric Ittrich 38 13/2/2016 37 9
Frank Willenborg 39 20/9/2016 37 8
Marco Fritz 41 22/9/2009 31 8
Bibiana Steinhaus 39 10/9/2017 38 6
Sören Storks 29 19/9/2017 28 6
Martin Peterson 33 20/9/2017 32 5
Sven Jablonski 27 17/9/2017 27 5
Averages 36.9 31.1

data from 05/03/18

Spain La Liga

Number of teams – 20

Number of referees – 20

Number of matches by each referee – max 17 (González González), min 10 (Álvarez Izqueirdo). Everyone else between 15 and 11

Oldest Referee –  Álvarez Izqueirdo 45, Youngest – De Burgos Bengoetxea 31, Average age 38.2.   Retirement age 45

Average age when appointed 31.8 years

Age Date first match Age first match Matches this year
González González 43 29/8/2009 34 17
Mario Melero López 38 24/8/2014 35 15
Undiano Mallenco 44 10/9/2000 26 14
Estrada Fernández 41 30/8/2009 33 14
Iglesias Villanueva 42 13/9/2010 35 14
Santiago Jaime Latre  38 28/8/2014 35 14
Jesús Gil Monzano 33 25/8/2012 28 14
Daniel Jesús Trujillo Suárez 34 11/9/2016 33 14
Juan Martinez Munuera 37 17/8/2013 31 14
José Maria Sánchez Martínez 34 29/8/2015 31 14
Pablo González Fuentes 39 27/8/2017 37 14
Javier Alberola Rojas 26/8/2017 14
David Fernández Borbalán 44 30/11/1997 24 13
Del Cerro Grande 42 11/9/2011 35 13
Antonio Miguel Matéu Lahos  40 13/9/2008 31 13
Hernández Hernández 35 20/8/2012 29 13
José Luis Munuera Montero  33 22/8/2016 32 13
De Burgos Bengoetxea  31 23/8/2015 29 11
Medié Jiménez  33 21/8/2017 32 11
Àlvarez Izqueirdo 45 24/9/2006 34 10
Averages 38.2 31.8

data from 05/03/18

France Ligue 1

Number of teams – 20

Number of referees – 22

Number of matches by each referee – max 18 (Francois Letexier), min 1 (Sandro Schärer). Typical numbers between 16 and 11

Oldest Referee –  Tony Chapron (45), Youngest – Francois Letexier (27), average age 37.3.   Retirement age – referees above the age of 43 are actively encouraged to retire.

Average age when appointed  years 31.0

Age Date first match Age first match Matches this year
Francois Letexier 27 23/1/2016 26 18
Antony Gautier 40 11/8/2007 29 16
Frank Schneider 38 5/3/2011 31 16
Mikael Lesage  42 11/8/2012 37 16
Jérôme Brisard  31 14/1/2017 39 16
Ruddy Buquet  42 9/8/2008 31 15
Benoît Millot  36 13/8/2011 29 15
Benoît Bastian 35 6/8/2011 28 15
Johan Hamel  37 6/3/2011 30 15
Karim Abed 28 13/8/2016 27 15
Amaury Delerue  40 18/8/2012 35 14
Olivier Thual 41 16/8/2003 27 13
Sébastien Desiage  44 6/8/2011 37 13
Thomas Leonard 36 5/3/2011 29 13
Stéphane Jochem  39 10/8/2013 34 12
Nicholas Rainville  35 7/8/2010 28 11
Clément Turpin  35 16/8/2008 26 11
Jérôme Miguelgorry 41 6/3/2011 34 9
Hakim Ben El Hadj  39 5/3/2011 32 8
Tony Chapron  45 7/8/2004 32 7
Sébastien Moreira 41 22/8/2009 32 4
Sandro Schärer 29 17/2/2018 29 1
Averages 37.3 31.0

data from 05/03/18

Italy Serie A

Number of teams – 20

Number of referees – 25

Number of matches by each referee – max 14 (Davide Massa), min 2 (Gianluca Aureliano, Eugenio Abbattista, Daniele Chiffi). Typical numbers between 14 and 12 (all but the three referees on just 2 games)

Oldest Referee –  Paolo Tagliavento 45), Youngest -Rosario Abisso (32), Average age 38.3.   Retirement age not known

Average age when appointed 30.8 years

Age Date first match Age first match Matches this year
Davide Massa 36 23/1/2011 29 14
Luca Banti 44 29/5/2005 31 12
Gianluca Rocchi  44 16/5/2004 30 12
Paolo Silvio Mazzoleni 42 16/4/2005 30 12
Daniele Orsato  42 17/12/2006 31 12
Daniele Doveri  39 28/2/2010 31 12
Marco Guida  37 31/1/2010 29 12
Michael Fabbri 34 8/5/2013 29 12
Fabio Maresca 36 18/5/2014 33 12
Claudio Gavillucci 38 27/4/2013 33 12
Rosario Abisso  32 6/1/2015 29 12
Paolo Tagliavento  45 16/5/2004 31 11
Paolo Valerie 39 23/12/2007 29 11
Piero Giacomelli 40 3/4/2011 33 11
Gianluca Manganiello 36 18/5/2014 32 11
Maurizio Mariano 35 6/1/2013 30 11
Luca Pairetto  35 25/9/2013 29 11
Antonio Damato  46 10/12/2006 34 10
Gianpaolo Calvarese 42 24/5/2009 33 10
Massimiliano Irrati  38 18/3/2012 32 10
Marco Di Bello 36 12/4/2012 30 10
Fabrizio Pasqua 35 11/5/2013 30 10
Gianluca Aureliano  38 18/5/2014 34 2
Eugenio Abbattista  35 24/2/2013 30 2
Daniele Chiffi 33 11/5/2014 29 2
Averages 38.3 30.8

data from 06/03/18

Finally England and the Premier League

Number of teams – 20

Number of referees – 19

Number of matches by each referee – max 24 (Michael Oliver), min 1 (Simon Hooper). Typical numbers between 21 and 11 (5 referees with either 11 or 12 games)

Oldest Referee – Roger East (52)  Youngest – Bobby Madley (31), average age 42.2. No formal Retirement age, requirement to pass annual assessment.

Average age when appointed  34.5 years

Age Date first match Age first match Matches this year
Michael Oliver 33 21/8/2010 25 24
Martin Atkinson 46 18/9/2004 33 21
Jonathan Moss 47 4/1/2011 40 21
Andre Marriner 46 13/11/2004 33 20
Anthony Taylor 39 3/2/2010 31 20
Craig Pawson 38 2/3/2013 33 19
Mike Dean 50 9/9/2000 32 18
Neil Swarbrick 48 11/12/2010 40 17
Kevin Friend 45 20/9/2009 38 16
Graham Scott 49 29/11/2014 45 15
Bobby Madley  31 27/4/2013 27 15
Lee Mason 45 4/2/2006 34 13
Roger East 52 1/9/2012 47 13
Lee Probert 45 13/1/2007 34 12
Stuart Attwell 34 23/8/2008 25 12
Mike Jones 50 30/8/2008 40 11
Paul Tierney 37 30/8/2014 34 11
Chris Kavanagh 32 8/4/2017 32 11
Simon Hooper 35 8/8/2015 33 1
Averages 42.2 34.5

data from 06/03/18

So we can clearly see that there a number of very significant differences between the referees in the Premier League compared with the other major leagues in Europe.  The principal differences are :-

  1. Significantly older – Antonio Donato (age 46) in Italy is the oldest in the four leagues I have compared to the PL.  Roger East is 52, Mike Jones and Mike Dean are 50, Graham Scott is 49, Neil Swarbrick 48 and Martin Atkinson and Andre Marriner 46.
  2. The average age of referees in the pL is 42.2, significantly higher than in any of the other leagues (Germany 36.9, Spain 38.2, France 37.3 and Italy 38.3).
  3. The average when appointed to the PL is 34.5 years, against 31.1 in Germany, 31.8 in Spain, 31.0 in France and 30.8 in Italy.
  4. The highest number of games any of our reference groups has undertaken is 18.  In the PL six referees have exceeded that number with Michael Oliver the hardest worked top flight referee in Europe having done 24.
  5. The EPL has the fewest referees of all of the major European leagues and has the greatest difference between the highest and lowest numbers of games undertaken by individuals of all five leagues considered.

24 Replies to “Referees across the Continent: just how different is the PGMO from everyone else?”

  1. And don’t forget that most EPL referees come from either Yorkshire or Lancashire. But od course, the referee supreme, Mike Riley, comes from, and is based in Leeds.

  2. The age thing is very interesting and just shows how complaint we are as a nation
    Referees and assistants at the highest level in England used to be self employed and in terms of officiating have an enforced retirement age of 48 Howerver in 2010 a tribunal in Sheffield ruled that it was contrary to discrimination laws to enforce retirement based on age.
    At the time although appointed by PGMOL the officials weren’t actually employed by the organisation that meant they didn’t have a case for unfair dismissal.
    I am not quite sure how refs are treated in other European leagues but in England they are now paid employees of PGMOL
    As a result of the ruling in England the SPL in Scotland likewise had to abandon their retirement rules.
    FIFA used to have a ruling that match officials had to retire upon reaching a certain age that ruling has now been removed from their statutes which is ironic when you think that they have now decided that WC refs can’t be over a certain age.

  3. @MikeT,

    Glad you were able to see this article. The points Andrew is making is what I was trying to get across in regards to number of referees and match distribution.

    Germany – 19 refs between 8 and 14 matches
    Spain- 16 refs between 13 and 15 matches. All 20 between 10 and 17
    Italy – 22 refs between 10 and 14 matches
    England- 18 refs between 11 and 24

    If they were properly and evenly assigned, Hooper would have officiated matches in double digits and no ref would have been above 20 matches already.

  4. Just watching the Real PSG match..
    All the referees and assistants look fit professional and capable of doing the job.
    None of the joking, alwight Wayne, Harry niceties that our northern brown envelope receiving, Rolex owners in sight.

  5. Jerry don’t get me wrong I don’t think the games are distributed correctly but I don’t believe we need more referee.

    Over a 40 week season it really shouldn’t be that challenging for a full time referee to officiate in say 25 league games and yes I know that there are other commitments such as FA cup and European games but even if you add all those commitments in its unlikely even Oliver will officiate in 40 club games in a season.

    Is one game a week on average really that onerous?

    The arguement being put forward is that the PL , based on other leagues, need more refers the counter arguement could be other leagues possibly have too many.

    And yes I know that suggestion is going to go down like a lead ballon but Is it really unreasonable to expect professional referees to at least match the number of games expected from players?

  6. Mike,

    So far this season Man United have only had 11 referees – how is that good for the game?

  7. Off topic – our U18s breezed into the semi final of their FA Cup tonight beating Colchester 5 goals to 1. Well done lads!

  8. Andrew

    On the face of it it is a bit strange
    Let’s ignore Hooper so on the CL of it 7 elite refs have not officiated in a Utd game this season
    East, Tierney and Kavanagh I think may well be Utd supporters so that is understandably why they haven’t either this season and having had no more than a cursory look at the records for past years I am not sure they have ever had a Utd games.
    But I genuinely have no explanation as to why the others haven’t had a Man Utd game as past records suggest they have had utd games prior to this season although there is confusion regarding Attwell and Masons past games.

  9. @Mike T,

    Based on your own argument, the Premier League would need a minimum of 20 full time referees to do 1 match a week (10 games per match week, 2 officials per match as 1st and 4th official).

    Referees, just like players, can get injured that’s why teams have reserve players. Remember Lee Probert’s injury issues? The players are also half the age of many of the PL refs listed. Just like players, the refs can also move on. Mark Clattenberg?

    PGMO is essentially playing the whole season 2 men down (only 18 full time officials) to start with. The refs are set up to fail from the beginning.

  10. Key to refs fitness is that the referee has to more or less travel across the field ‘with’ the ball, making it more physically demanding. He/she does not pass the officiating on to a different official in each half of the pitch but effectively covers a large part of the pitch with assistants covering the extremities.

    The primary issue is that there is no random selection of matches but selective appointments that basically corrupt the fairness of the game. If appointments were by ballot then there would be less reason to feel bias.

  11. What would be interesting is distance travelled by the referees in each league because the EPL have the older ref,s and the games are mostly played at a higher pace then other leagues could count for their error rate which is always PGMO best in the world statistics


    Brilliant article, two great quotes, natural manager! Nelson Mandela!

    Teachings adapyove shape through intelligence am so interpretation.

    We have a very intelligent front 3, we need a fourth and. A midfielder and another CB, who bloody think.

    Some need yo learn to think, but have natural ability!

    Interesting how Poch and co interpret this one! Ahead buy not really!

  13. Jerry.

    I am not aware of records regarding 4th officials and yes quite often that appointment is taken by someone from the elite list who hasn’t a game on that day but who are often scheduled for a game later in that game week.

    I am not 100% sure but I think there is only one matchady a season when all games are played on the same day.

    That said in the PL handbook there is a long list of referees on the national list who are qualified as fourth officials and indeed do undertake that role.

    There is no requirement whatsoever for an elite list ref to take charge of FA cup or league cup games although they do .

    There are only 380 PL games in a season and including the FA cup final there are only 5 match days from the 3rd round . After the 3rd round there aren’t enough games for every elite referee even if that group officiated every game.

    Yes refs do get injured indeed one is at the moment but historically it’s rare to have more than one out of commission but even if you did have two out for a complete PL season and operated on a fair distribution of games then that’s only 24 PL games in the middle in a season.

    Theres a maximum 4 FA cup games ( no ref would take charge in both the semi final and the final itself) ok add in a couple of league cup games and another couple for FA cup replays than your up to 30 -32 games in a season. I really don’t think that Gould be that challenging for a full time professional over a 40 week season.


    There is no doubt that ref have huge demands on them and it’s one of the reasons why full time officials with no outside jobs have more recovery time, can work on their fitness and based on geography in England the distances traveled between the majority of refs is far less than most other leagues
    Again as they are full time they generally undertake travel to their allocated games on the morning prior to the game whereas I read that say for instance in Spain that often don’t arrive till late in the day prior to matchday.
    I actually quite like have your idea of random appoints by way of a ballot.It might get a little complex if a ref had to pull out through injury or illness but how about a reserve ref being again selected at random at the same time from either refs who’d they have a game or the second group of PGMOL refs
    Might not make great TV but who knows the PL could no doubt manufacture another’ set of TV rights after all Sky are always looking for a bargain!

  14. FANTASTIC ARTICLE! One of the most in-depth analysis I have read in the last couple of months! Bravo, Andrew!

  15. A ref in a top competition (CL matches) runs on average between 13-15 km in 90 minutes. But there have been cases found in the US that a ref ran 19 km in a match. That is almost half a marathon! But even with let us say 15 km per match it is very unlikely that a ref can deliver top performances 3 matches in a week. Because unlike with let us say athletics where you can run on automatic pilot a ref also has the mental aspect to take care of.
    I have gone to matches with my head full of problems but after the match they had all gone because the focus in a match is so complete you cannot think of anything else. But this also means that the focus during a match is so high and that is causing more fatigue.
    When are most errors made by players and refs? Mostly in the closing stages of a match. That is mostly because of physical fatigue but also because of losing the focus.
    The more matches you do as a ref the more you open yourself up to errors. So the governing body (at least a decent governing body) knows or should know this and make sure that refs don’t go in the red zone of their physical and mental health.

  16. If the PL refs were flying aeroplanes, there would be regular crashes due to mental fatigue.

  17. Douglas Costa no penalty, yellow Sandro ex Sheraton grand dive Tripoiier, diving Ali!

    One more round, for Spurs and liverpool and United. City can take it, but anyone who draws Real, well, CR7 the will to win, Messi is pissed about the best player award so has come alive!

    Bayern are reviving up. Don’t underestimate Jose and his anti football!

  18. Very interesting. Thanks for doing all that research, Andrew. With our referees being so much older, and carrying on for so much longer, it’s almost as if they are the only ones trusted to do …. whatever they’re doing.

  19. @MikeT,

    Just so you are aware, the 4th official is always from the select group. The 4th official has to be able to take over in case of injury to the main ref or assistant referee.

  20. An excellent article, I would point out that the English referees officiate games on the English Football League, FA Cup, League Cup and travel the country to act in 4th official role
    Succession planning and the pathway to the top is problematic

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